Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mozart by Mitropoulos

The great Greek conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960) was renowned as an interpreter of 20th century music, but one hardly associates him at all with music before Beethoven (except for a few orchestral transcriptions of Bach organ works).  He made only one commercial recording of Mozart's music, other than a concerto accompaniment (for Vronsky and Babin in the concerto for two pianos), and that was of a piece so obscure that it represented a first on records at the time.  This was of two entr'actes from his incidental music for "Thamos, King of Egypt" - a play by Tobias Philipp von Gelber that is only remembered today because of Mozart's music:

Mozart: Thamos, King of Egypt, K. 345 - Entr'actes 1 and 2
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded December 3, 1940
Columbia Masterworks 11578-D, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 17.33 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 9.67 MB)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bach: Chromatic Fantasy (Liselotte Selbiger)

Liselotte Selbiger
Born in 1906 as the only child in a well-to-do German family of Jewish lineage, harpsichordist Liselotte Selbiger had to escape the Nazis not once but twice - first in 1935, when she relocated to Denmark, then again in 1943, when she escaped to Sweden in the bottom of a fishing boat, carrying poison with her in case of capture.  We are fortunate that she survived, because on the evidence of her all-too-few recordings (the first of which was made after the war), she was a very fine musician.  She actually trained as a cellist, then switched to piano, then, just before leaving Germany for good, acquired a Neupert harpsichord, with which she became the first person to give a full-length harpsichord recital in Denmark.  Danacord, that indefatigable purveyor of historical Danish recordings, has issued several CD's of her extant commercial and broadcast recordings, but this earlier version of the Bach Chromatic Fantasy is not among them:

Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903 and
Bach: Partita No. 1 in B-Flat Major, BWV 825 - Gigue
Liselotte Selbiger, harpsichord
Recorded December 13, 1949
Danish Columbia LDX 7014 and 7015, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 35.28 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 16.07 MB)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Stokowski and Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams and Leopold Stokowski, 1957
Thursday will mark the 131st anniversary of the birth of Leopold Stokowski, and so I present his only commercial recording of a Vaughan Williams symphony - his Sixth - which also happens to be the only non-British première recording of a Vaughan Williams symphony.  No doubt this latter circumstance was quite by accident, for a competing version, Boult's on HMV (which can be heard at the CHARM website), was made a mere two days later!  Stokowski's version is very exciting, and may be the fastest on record of this great symphony.  (For an appreciation of Stokowski's performances of Vaughan Williams, see this article by Edward Johnson at Larry Huffman's amazing site, - from which the above picture has been borrowed.)  As a bonus, a ravishing but slightly abridged version of the Fantasia on "Greensleeves," issued only on 78 at the time, is included:

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6 in E Minor and Fantasia on "Greensleeves"
New York Philharmonic conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Recorded February 21, 1949
Columbia Masterworks set MM-838, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 82.47 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.08 MB)

Another important conductor anniversary on the horizon is that of Albert Coates, who was born five days after Stokowski.  In 2009 I first offered his recording of a Bach organ toccata, orchestrated by Heinrich Esser.  A few weeks ago I decided to use a different stylus to make a new transfer, the original one being afflicted by a swish towards the end.  I think this one sounds a little better:

Bach: Toccata in F, BWV 540 (orch. Esser)
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates
Recorded February 18, 1932
Victor 11468, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 24.70 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 9.35 MB)

The links at the original post have also been updated.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beethoven: Quartet No. 4 (Coolidge Quartet)

In an earlier post, I remarked that the Coolidge Quartet (in existence from 1936 to 1944) had begun about 1937 an ambitious project to record the Beethoven string quartets, which stopped short with the Second "Rasumovsky" (No. 8), in 1940.  They were released in order, which means that all the Opus 18 quartets, at least, did get recorded by the Coolidges, and here is one of those - a set that I was fortunate enough to find from an online dealer about a month ago, and at a quite reasonable price:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 18, No. 4
The Coolidge Quartet (Kroll-Berezowsky-Moldavan-Gottlieb)
Recorded October 24, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-696, four ten-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 55.48 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 29.95 MB)

The Coolidge Quartet made eighteen sets for Victor; here is a list of these in order of issue:

M-524 Hindemith: Quartet No. 3, Op. 22
M-543 Loeffler: Music for Four Stringed Instruments
M-550 Beethoven: Quartet No. 1 in F, Op. 18, No. 1
M-558 Griffes: Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes
M-622 Beethoven: Quartet No. 2 in G, Op. 18, No. 2
M-624 Nicolai Berezowsky: Quartet No. 1, Op. 16
M-641 Schubert: Quartet No. 9 in G Minor, Op. Posth.
M-650 Beethoven: Quartet No. 3 in D, Op. 18, No. 3
M-696 Beethoven: Quartet No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 18, No. 4
M-716 Beethoven: Quartet No. 5 in A, Op. 18, No. 5
M-719 Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge: Quartet in E Minor
M-723 Hummel: Quartet in G, Op. 30, No. 2
M-745 Beethoven: Quartet No. 6 in B-Flat, Op. 18, No. 6
M-752 Harris: Quintet for Piano and Strings (with Johana Harris)
M-782 Frederick Jacobi: Hagiographa (with Irene Jacobi, piano)
M-804 Beethoven: Quartet No. 7 in F, Op. 59, No. 1
M-891 Mason: Quartet in G Minor, on Negro Themes, Op. 19
M-919 Beethoven: Quartet No. 8 in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2

All except the last two Beethoven sets had been deleted from the Victor catalogue by the end of the Second World War, and even those were dumped when the Paganini Quartet's series of all three Beethoven Op. 59 quartets appeared in 1948.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The First Lady of the Harp

Mildred Dilling
During her lifetime, Indiana-born Mildred Dilling (1894-1982) was usually billed as the "First Lady of the Harp" - which seems corny nowadays, but I suppose it made sense back then, when the harp soloists most publicly visible were men (Grandjany, Salzedo).  And, if the picture is any indication, she certainly had glamour.  Her greatest claim to fame is that she was Harpo Marx's harp teacher. (Actually, Harpo was self-taught on the instrument, claims his son Bill, also a musician, on this website, but he did receive help from Dilling in breaking bad habits.)  She also owned the world's largest collection of harps - 65 of them, all kept in her Manhattan apartment!  She made, however, pitifully few recordings. Four issued sides for HMV in the late 20s, fourteen more for American Columbia in the 30s, and an LP or two for Urania is all I am aware of.  Here is the only one I have, one of the Columbia issues:

Prokofiev: Prelude in C Major, Op. 12, No. 7 and
Sibelius: Pastorale (from "Pelléas et Mélisande")
Mildred Dilling, harp
Recorded June 8 and 9, 1937
Columbia 17107-D, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 14.98 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 6.26 MB)

For those who would like to hear more of Mildred Dilling's playing, there is a 1940 short film on Youtube, in which she plays three pieces as well as talks about the harp.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Françaix: Piano Concerto

Jean Françaix and his wife Blanche, 1937
Here is one of the earliest recordings of music by one of France's most cheerful musical voices, Jean Françaix (1912-1997).  Françaix made his reputation in 1932 with a work for piano and orchestra, his Concertino, and he followed it up four years later with this equally saucy and delightful Concerto.  One imagines that he wrote this work with the gramophone in mind, for each of its four movements is timed to exactly fill out a 12" 78-rpm side!  And, in fact, the concert première, in June of 1937, seems to have taken place after this recording was made:

Françaix: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1936)
Jean Françaix, piano
Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris conducted by Nadia Boulanger
Recorded February 9, 1937
Victor 15114 and 15115, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 40.93 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 19.7 MB)

The original issue of this recording was, of course, on French HMV.  Victor, which issued the set in 1938, does not appear to have seen fit to issue it with an album; they didn't begin issuing two-record groupings as album sets until 1937, and even then, seems to have been selective about which such groupings received albums.  Such worthy contenders as Landowska's recording of Bach's Toccata in D, and Cortot's of Mendelssohn's "Variations serieuses" - both issued about the same time as the Françaix - also did not receive albums.